That's been my experience with it, too.
As for the MDF - join then rout/cut, or rout/cut then join? I don't have the skill to use a jigsaw accurately.
For the record, this is what I have at my disposal:
chop/mitre saw (non sliding)
circular saw w/ edge guide
the HF 15 piece carbide bit set - damn, for some reason I thought I got 1/2" shank, these are 1/4"
several hand saws, RO sander, hand sanding tools, chisels
Hi Chris - Looks like you have everything you need.
1. Glue up the MDF top and seal it, apply formica, whatever.
2. Route the rabbet for the plate. This is where you need the accuracy. Pay attention to the corner radius. The rabbet will actually be a groove the exact size of the plate around the outside
perimeter. You will want to make the depth of the groove the exact thickness of the plate. Maybe a tad, no more than 1/32, deeper. You can shim the plate up to exact flush later. Set up guide fences to do this. You can either use a guide bushing and template or straight scrap boards to guide against the router base. I would recommend the bushing/template route if you have the capability.
3. Use the circular saw and plunge cut the straight edges of the groove along the Inside
perimeter of the groove to within an inch or so of the corners. The inside cutout doesn't need to be that precise as long as you leave plenty of support for the router and plate.
4. Flip the top over and tack some scrap across the cuts you made in the last step. Don't need a lot, just enough to hold the center piece in place.
5. Flip the top back over and make the remaining corner cuts with the jig saw. Remove the scrap and center cutout from the bottom of the table
Voila.. you're done.